What is The Cause?

What is The Cause?

We often talk about the connection between mind and body – visualizing positive outcomes, training our minds, the importance of building “mental fortitude” – during our physical training. While it’s important to consider the connection between mind and body (being as well as doing) as we look to achieve our goals, another important consideration is the soul (or feeling).

And that’s where the “cause” comes in. A cause by definition is something that gives rise to action. A cause can be positive, negative, personal or philanthropic, but it’s ultimately what motivates us. Read more

A Request

A Request

I have procrastinated writing this blog in what was a busy and emotional week. On Sunday I volunteered at the New York City Marathon with members of my running club. Tuesday I voted. Wednesday I protested (more on that in my next post and please read that before expressing an opinion on why you think anyone should or shouldn’t be protesting). Last night I went to a fundraising gala in honor of the 50th Anniversary of the Volunteer Center of Bergen County. Which brings me to today. Veterans Day. So rather than reflecting on the results of the presidential election, the theme that has emerged is SERVICE.

“We can find meaning and reward by serving some higher purpose than ourselves, a shining purpose, the illumination of a Thousand Points of Light…We all have something to give.”

–  President George H. W. Bush, 1989 inaugural address

Giving of ourselves. Making an effort to help others. Advocating – and voting – for the world in which we want to live makes the world a better place and enriches our lives tremendously. My father served in the Army Air Corps during World War II. My late husband served in the Navy during the Beirut Conflict. Some form of service – to our county and to our community – is a necessary aspect of our lives as Americans. Not everyone does it. But everyone should.

People rely on others to be the active community investors. And thankfully there will always be those busy people who are willing to take on one more job, serve on one more non-profit board, coach one more team, and knock on one more door. But each and every one of us has a responsibility to be involved. We all have to stop assuming someone else will do it.

So here is my request…honor a veteran today by signing up to volunteer. And make a commitment to volunteering next week and next month and next year. Find a non-profit organization whose mission is meaningful to you; find a community organization that makes things better for your neighbors in need; run for public office; look to see what’s missing or needs to be fixed and be the answer. Stop waiting for someone else. And stop complaining about the results of other people’s volunteer service if you’re not serving yourself.

img_5323Sunrise on the Mile 21 Water Stop in Harlem. New York City Marathon. November 2016.

Races to Run – Summer 2016

Races to Run – Summer 2016

Last weekend I worked a 5k run for Tomorrow’s Children’s Fund of Hackensack University Medical Center. In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a paid employee hired by the race director, not a volunteer. But it is ultimately the expertise of paid staff that allows non profits to best utilize volunteers and create a professional event that participants come back to year after year. There are of course a lot of events that do not have paid staff, but in my opinion as a participant, the better organized events have some paid staff, at the very least a professional race director. Paid staff do a lot of these events. We know how to set-up and manage the flow of everything from registration to the finish line and awards ceremony. We train and lead volunteers so the event can run efficiently. When I organized my first charity 5k back in 1998 I had already participated in a number of road races, but really knew nothing about what happened behind the scenes. I hired a race director. And that event is still going strong. The 19th Annual Teterboro 5k is taking place in just two weeks. I will be there – as a participant. Below is the second installment of my quarterly list of road races for charity. This time I have included the cause on the list, so you don’t have to click through to find a charity you wish to support. Since its summer I included some races at the shore, too. This is by no means a compressive list. For moe information on races in your area go to USA Track and Field’s events calendar.

July 2016
7/03 Harbor Hustle, 5k Stone Harbor, for the benefit of Alex’s Lemonade Stand for Childhood Cancer
7/04 Glen Rock Tribute Run, 5k Glen Rock, for the benefit of GRACE (Glen Rock Assistance Council & Endowment
7/10 Stone Harbor Fitness Challenge, 5k Stone Harbor, for the benefit of Alex’s Lemonade Stand for Childhood Cancer
7/16 Teterboro Airport 5k, Moonachie, for the benefit of Bergen County’s United Way
7/16 Boomer’s Cystic Fibrosis Run to Breath, 4 miles Central Park, for the benefit of the Boomer Espason Foundation
7/27 Downtown Westfield 5k, Westfield, benefitting Downtown Westfield Corporation
7/31 Al Mackler Cancer Foundation Race, 5k Atlantic City Boardwalk, for the benefit of the Mackler Cancer Foundation
August 2016
8/04 Toys for Tots 5k Run, Colonia, for the benefit of Central Jersey Toys for Tots
8/07 Flat Rock Brook 5k Run in the Wild, Englewood, for the benefit of Flat Rock Brook Nature Center
8/14 Stone Harbor Surf and Turf 5-miler, Stone Harbor, for the benefit of Alex’s Lemonade Stand for Childhood Cancer
8/20 Chickie’s and Pete’s Boardwalk Run, Atlantic City Boardwalk, for the benefit of Archway Schools
8/20 CASA Superhero 4 Miler, Garret Mountain Reservation, Woodland Park, for the benefit of Court Appointed Special Advocates
8/21 Midland Avenue Road Mile, Montclair, for the benefit of the Montclair Public Library
September 2016
9/03 5k Run/Walk for Warmth, Bloomfield, for the benefit of Spread the Purple
9/10 The 4 Miler at Garret Mountain, Woodland Park for the benefit of St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital
9/24 Haworth 5k Run/Walk, Haworth for the benefit of Haworth Road Runners Association donations to local non-profits
9/25 Steeple Chase Distance Run, 5k & 10k Hillsborough for the benefit of Steeple Chase Cancer Center of Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital

Looking ahead to October, AliveAndKickn (who I introduced you to in March) is officially gearing up for the Get Your Rear in Gear 5k race in NYC on Sunday, October 23rd.  For more information or to run for and/or donate to Team AliveAndKickn, please go here.

Paid event staff are the first to arrive and watch the sun rise on the event.

IMG_4270Overpack County Park, Ridgefield Park, NJ June 2016

 

My Story: Part 2

My Story: Part 2

This is the story I published on LinkedIn last year, as it was shared by Kelly Anderson in her blog Red Head on the Run, on November 16, 2015:

Not Your Typical Breast Cancer Story

I was planning to run the 2014 NJ Marathon. I was diagnosed with breast cancer 11 weeks into the 16 week training program, so I did what any newly diagnosed woman would do, I took to the Internet to research my disease. I found a lot of stuff that scared the crap out of me, so I registered for the Chicago Marathon instead. Figured I needed a plan B.

I did get to run NJ on April 27 (missed a BQ by 2 min and 50 seconds) and had my surgery 10 days later. I had a lumpectomy. All came back good. I took 5 weeks off from running and scheduled 4 weeks of radiation over the summer. I decided to defer Chicago rather than try to train through all of that. I finally ran Chicago this year! I missed a BQ again, but raised almost $6000 for charity. Here is my complete story which explains why I didn’t raise money for breast cancer…….

I am sharing my story with you as a way of creating awareness for something not talked about enough. I hope it can save a life.

I’m a runner. I often run to reduce stress and keep my sanity. I ran a lot in 2014. This year, the Chicago Marathon completed my fifth full marathon. Like the other four, I had decided to use my participation in this event to raise money for charity. In the past, I have raised a significant amount of money for a variety of charities that meant something to me; maybe because I worked for the organization and had a really good understanding of their work, or maybe because a friend or family member was personally touched by the cause. This time, the cause is more personal.

In the Spring of 2014 I became a breast cancer survivor, but I’m not raising money for breast cancer. A lot of people raise money for breast cancer. I am thankful for that. Because of the funds raised for breast cancer I received an early diagnosis. I had access to great medical care and treatment.

My cancer was diagnosed at a time when I was experiencing a level of stress that can only be described as toxic. In recent years I had lost both of my parents and a close Aunt and Uncle. I had managed the care and personal affairs of both my mother and aunt – both diagnosed with alzheimer’s – in their final years of life. I worked stressful jobs with horrendous commutes because they provided the resources I needed to support my family. My husband had been laid off from a job in late 2003 and never went back to work. I was doing everything I could to keep it together for my family.

I believe, based on what I read, that stress played a large role in my cancer. After my surgery I began counseling, something I would never have considered in the past; but I didn’t think I would be much good to my family if I didn’t get help. I had to pay out-of-pocket. It wasn’t covered by insurance, but I didn’t care. I would make sacrifices in other areas. When I was the CEO of Gilda’s Club Northern New Jersey (a cancer support organization), I learned how important social and emotional support is when living with cancer. I also learned that a cancer diagnosis doesn’t just happen to the individual but it affects the whole family. I urged my husband to seek support as well.

I completed my last radiation treatment on August 19, 2014 and I’m now happy to report I’m cancer free (and keeping my fingers crossed that I remain so). After going through a cancer diagnosis, surgery and treatment, I never imagined that anything else could change my life the way that experience did; but I was wrong.

October 6, 2014 began like any other day. I dropped my daughter off at school (she had just started her freshman year in high school), my husband and I dealt with some house issues and financial concens in the morning and then I was off to Starbucks to do some work on my laptop and meet a business colleague. When I returned home a little after 5:00 that evening, I found a note taped to the garage door. It read: “I am in the garage. Probably dead. Don’t let (our daughter) see me. Love, Chris.” My husband of 21 years and 4 months, my daughter’s father, had committed suicide.

It was only then that I realized that he too had a disease. Mental illness is a disease; but, like in his case, it often goes undiagnosed and untreated until it’s too late. There were times over the years that I knew something was wrong. In the months leading up to his death I urged him to seek help, but he didn’t want to go to a therapist because, unlike my breast cancer treatments, it wasn’t covered by insurance. He felt we didn’t have any more money to spend on something like that and I really had no idea how bad he was.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States; more people die of suicide than in car accidents. In 2010, the total number of suicide deaths in the United States was 38,364. Historically, suicide rates rise during times of financial stress and economic setbacks. In 2009 it was the 7th leading cause of death for males, and the 16th leading cause of death for females. Suicide was the third leading cause of death for young people ages 15 to 24. From 1999 to 2010, the suicide rate among Americans, aged 35 to 64 increased nearly 30 percent. The largest increases were among men in their 50s, and women 60 to 64, at rates of 50 and 60 percent, respectively. Older adults are disproportionately likely to die by suicide.

So much needs to be done to advocate for better care and treatment of mental illness, to educate the public about the warning signs of suicide, and to provide support to families in crisis. I think it can be argued that mental health issues are at the root of so many of society’s problems; contributing to other diseases like cancer and heart disease to being the issue behind substance abuse, and gun violence.

Breast cancer was a lot less treatable – and survivable – when people decided to raise money to change that. It’s time to put that kind of power behind mental health. We can make a difference. Running the Chicago Marathon this year was an effort to raise funds for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. It is their goal to reduce the annual suicide rate in the United States 20% by 2025. They fund suicide prevention research, provide education to create a culture that is smart about mental health and they provide evidence-based programs for schools, colleges and hospitals. They advocate for policies that will improve mental health services and reduce suicide. And they provide support to those who struggle with thoughts of suicide and they also help loss survivors heal.

I am running the NJ Marathon on Sunday.  With some more of the emotional baggage behind me, I want to give the BQ one more shot. I am also still raising money for AFSP and hoping to reach that goal too. The link to my fundraising page: http://afsp.donordrive.com/campaign/Connolly.

Most importantly, learn everything you can about preventing suicide and advocate for better mental health. Thank you!

356534_208268929_XLarge2015 Chicago Marathon Finisher